CW 24/2021: Steps of rapproachement
Press Review 12 June 2021 to 18 June 2021

Laurent Ggagbo returns to Côte d’Ivoire

Almost ten years after his extradition, Côte d’Ivoire’s former president Laurent Ggagbo returned to his home country from Brussels on Thursday. The 76-year-old had been charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he refused to recognise the election victory of his political opponent, Alassane Outtara, in 2011 when he had already been in office as Ivorian president for nearly a decade, and a civil war broke out in which more than 3,000 people were killed over the span of several months. On 15 January 2019, the ICC had surprisingly acquitted Ggagbo on the grounds that the prosecution had not been able to sufficiently substantiate its charges. The acquittal was confirmed this year at the last instance on 31 March and all travel restrictions against him were lifted. In April, the current President Ouattara had subsequently publicly declared that Gbagbo would be allowed to return to the West African country as part of national reconciliation. Since the end of the civil war and Gbagbo’s arrest more than a decade ago, social tensions have continued, with political unrest most recently surrounding the 2020 parliamentary and presidential elections. Gbagbo’s return is therefore seen by many as essential for a genuine reconciliation process, but at the same time it will put the country to the test, as the Ivorian population is divided: While thousands of his supporters and his party, the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), celebrated his arrival in front of the airport and on the streets of Abidjan on Thursday, Gbagbo critics staged protests in front of his residence. In particular, the victims of the 2011 violence continue to demand justice for the crimes committed at that time. For the time being, it also remains open whether the 20-year prison sentence that had been handed down in absentia against Ggagbo by the Supreme Court in Abidjan will be dropped. The Ivorian court had convicted him in late 2019 of embezzling funds from the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) during his tenure. However, as part of the reconciliation process, Ggagbo is expected to be pardoned, which would not overturn the sentence but would suspend its execution. Thus, he would not serve a prison sentence, but would not be allowed to run for political office again in the future. Gbagbo himself has not yet commented on his political future.


Kenya and Somalia resume diplomatic relations

On Monday this week, the Kenyan Foreign Ministry announced that it would reopen its country’s embassy in the Somali capital Mogadishu as soon as possible. The ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia is also welcome to return to Nairobi, the Kenyan government said. This news follows an invitation by Somali Foreign Minister Abdirizak Mohamed two days earlier to resume bilateral diplomatic relations. Diplomatic ties had been cut late last year when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta received the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, which is not recognised by the international community and which Mogadishu considers an integral part of Somalia. Already last month, Somalia hinted at wanting to resume relations with Kenya. However, due to a Kenyan-initiated halt in flights between the two countries a short time later, these efforts were delayed. Now that the airspace has been reopened since Thursday last week, nothing stands in the way of the resumption of full diplomatic relations between the two sides, the Somali Foreign Ministry announced. Already on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohamed and his Kenyan counterpart Raychelle Omamo decided in a telephone conversation to push ahead with the reopening of both embassies as soon as possible and, in particular, to intensify trade and security relations as well as cultural exchange between the two countries. The conciliatory tones give reason to hope for an increasing normalisation of the traditionally tense relations between the two neighbouring countries and thus for more stability in a volatile region. Nevertheless, important problems remain that have strained relations between the two countries for years. For example, both Somalia and Kenya claim a potentially resource-rich stretch of the Indian Ocean. The territorial dispute and the course of the maritime border are to be decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the most important legal body of the United Nations. The future of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps in northern Kenya, where a majority of Somalis live, also poses a challenge to neighbourly relations.


In other news 

Malawian environmental activist Gloria Majiga-Kamoto has been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her fight against plastic waste. In a virtual award ceremony, the 30-year-old accepted the award as one of six international winners on Tuesday evening. For years, she has been involved in a grassroots social movement in Malawi against the backdrop of increasing environmental damage caused by plastic pollution. The biggest success of her campaign work so far is certainly that the Supreme Court of Malawi issued a ban on the production and use of thin plastic, a special variant of single-use plastic, in July 2019. However, the final court decision was preceded by a three-year legal battle with the country’s largest plastic manufacturers, in which the young mother had to fear for the safety of her family several times.

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